"The Air Force has proposed dropping about 100 bombs per year, some as large as 300 pounds, on waters north of Kauai," Michael Jasny, a leading expert in the law and policy of ocean noise pollution and director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told The Dodo. "It says it will keep whales and dolphins out of harm's way by looking for them on the surface, but that's no easy task in the heavy waters around the islands."
The Long Range Strike Weapons Systems Evaluation Program would explode bombs and missiles being tested for military use above or just below the surface of the water.
It's estimated that 36 marine animals could be permanently deafened, according to a data on population density issued by the Air Force. And 382 animals could sustain temporary hearing loss.
Because whales and dolphins navigate and communicate by sound, explosions could severely impact their behavioral patterns. The way the animals breed, migrate, eat and nurse their young could be disrupted.
If approved, the tests would last from September 2017 through August 2022.
People are concerned for the welfare of whales and dolphins in the waters where the tests would take place. The NRDC, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservation Council for Hawaii, Earthjustice and the Ocean Mammal Institute sent a joint letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the agency in charge of approving the proposal, urging the government to take the impact on marine animals into account.
"At the very least, the Air Force should use the Navy's network of hydrophones (or underwater microphones) to help detect these vulnerable species around its bomb site," Jasny said. "And it should keep to the northern end of the training area, where the islands' resident whales and dolphins are less likely to go. Otherwise, the Air Force would be taking unnecessary risks in one of the most remarkable spots for marine mammals on the planet."
The U.S. Air Force did not immediately reply to The Dodo's request for comment.
While the public comment period on this proposal is over, you can still contact the NMFS through this address: ITP.McCue@noaa.gov. To speak up for animals impacted by ocean noise, you can add your name here.